This gathering of short fiction ansd essays traces the artistic develpment of the masterful southern stylist and storyteller Ed McClanahan. As an "autobiography of a voice," each piece is seasoned with McClanahan's own wry commentary: "In the earliest stories collected here, the attentive reader may detect....flashing neon signs, fly-specked mirrors, and characters whose eyes could be likened in various ways to black holes." In a later essay,"Empathy Follows Sympathy," McClanahan reveals how his writing evolved from these gloomy tales to the ribald comedy for which he is well-loved. After McClanahan's exodus from Kentucky to California come his firsthand accounts of the Bay Area hippie culture: "Grateful Dead I Have Known," a long prize-winning meditation about Jerry Garcia and the fanatical devotion of his fans; an insider's portrait of beat hero Neal Cassady; and a chronicle of a bus journey reunion with buddy Ken Kesey and other Merry Pranksters- -long-hairs now become gray-hairs. Whether reflecting on the once- radical urgency of a generation now fading, or a childhood that fellow Kentuckian Wendell Berry describes in his afterword as " an ordeal of provinciality," McClanahan writes with warmth and hard-earned wisdom.